a year wasted but now some hope


CINCINNATI (AP) – No popcorn sleepovers and Disney movies are allowed. There are no dance recitals or holiday contests, much less Grandparents Day to visit the children’s classrooms.

No hugs.

The first 12 months of the pandemic they represent a lost year for many in the largest group of grandparents in American history. Most of the nation’s 70 million grandparents are in the fourth quarter of their lives, and the clock is ticking.

“When working with older adults, I see a lot of depression, a lot of increases in loneliness,” says Nick Nicholson, a nursing professor and researcher on aging at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. “It has been really difficult… the anxiety, the despair, the social isolation. Over time, there are so many adverse effects. The sooner we expand the bubble, the better, so that people can start to heal together. “

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week he offered some initial steps for Year 2, saying that fully vaccinated grandparents could visit in a single household with healthy children and grandchildren without masks or other special precautions.

Doris Rolark blew kisses at her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who wore masks when they left gifts on her 78th birthday last month. She resumed hugging last week after the CDC guidelines were announced.

“It was great. I’m excited to see others,” says the Middletown, Ohio woman, who has three grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. “I hope it’s better now.”

Joe and Nancy Peters invited one of their 11 grandchildren to visit last week when they began to “cautiously return to normal,” he says. Both retired educators in their 70s, they were used to being heavily involved with grandchildren, all living near them in suburban Cincinnati, before the pandemic and its security restrictions hit.

It was especially hard wasting time with the younger ones.

“They are 3, 4 and 5 years old and a year has passed,” says Nancy Peters. “They have changed a lot … and Amelia said every day to her mother: ‘I’m going to have a sleepover at my grandmother’s house when the coronavirus ends.’

“And now he is no longer 3 years old,” he says.

Both Peters and Rolark have been fully vaccinated as the rate of injections has accelerated nationwide in recent weeks, and an estimated 60% of those 65 and older have received at least one dose so far. But the CDC reports that only 10% of the population as a whole has been fully vaccinated and recalls that vulnerability increases with age.. The CDC says that eight out of 10 people who have died in the United States from the virus were 65 or older.

Nicholson says that while some older adults are “just knocking down the door to get out” after a year of isolation, others remain apprehensive about strain variants. and other unknowns later.

“They wonder: is it safe?” he says.

RECIPE: CAUTION

Joaniko Kohchi, who heads the Institute for Parenting at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, says grandparents and other family members should be cautious when trying to return to something that passes as normal.

“Without a doubt, there will be a period of adjustment that will continue; planning and flexibility are really important, ”he says.

It is also unknown: how much some older adults have been hurt not only emotionally but mentally by losing contacts in person and other activities outside their homes for a year.

“I think seeing the same two or three people all the time can be really difficult,” says Arman Ramnath, whose 94-year-old Indian-born grandmother Vijaya Ramnath has lived with her parents in Columbus, Ohio, since before. that he was born. “It ages you faster.”

While many grandparents stay in touch by phone, text messages, and video conferencing, others lack access or the ability to use such technology. A study conducted last September and October found resilience Among older Americans, but also signs of trouble, many reported a decline in happiness and some reported an increase in loneliness and depression in the winter.

During the good weather, the Peters had gone and had many visitors in the driveways, including a one-person dance recital in the driveway for them by a granddaughter. They attended dozens of outdoor events like baseball and soccer games last year, but were unable to attend the grandchildren’s indoor basketball games.

“It’s been pretty tough,” says Joe Peters, who recounts gymnastics Saturdays in previous years when they played up to eight games of boys’ basketball in one day.

Many grandparents actively help babysitting and picking them up from school or daycare, so pandemic barriers against that have caused families to “lose everyone,” says Nicholson.

Rolark, from Middletown, Ohio, has always been active with the offspring. She raised three children as a single divorced woman, and two of her great-grandchildren lived with her until high school. His progeny have been paying him during the pandemic for all those years of his support when he also worked in a full-time office at a steel company.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” says Rolark, who says her great-grandson Amarius Gates kept his driveway with shovels through the winter, while his granddaughter Davonne Calhoun and other members of her large family ran errands and helped her with chores. home.

STRUGGLE OF HOUSEHOLDS, FACILITIES

Nursing homes and other assisted-care facilities have also faced challenges in keeping grandparents connected, as many cut off contact visits due to concerns about the spread of the virus. “It’s been lonely,” says Deb McGlinch, a patient at the Versailles Health and Rehabilitation Center in western Ohio.

She was used to frequent visits from her 20-year-old granddaughter, Kortaney Cattell, to play card games like Uno with her. He has been able to video conference with Kortaney and seven other grandchildren, but has missed his card games. They recently resumed friendly remote competition with a virtual slot machine game.

McGlinch says that instead of just exchanging small talk over the phone, now “we can have fun.”

One in 10 American grandparents now lives in the same household with at least one grandchild. In some Asian cultures, that has been common for a long time. In Ramnath’s family, his Indian-born maternal grandmother, Saroja Seetharaman, rotates between her three children and six grandchildren, in Dallas, Atlanta, and her home in Columbus.

Ramanth, 27, has been nervous about getting close to his older grandmother, Vijaya, especially when he has just returned from Washington, where he is a student at Georgetown University School of Law. You are studying remotely, but sometimes you have to visit the school, for example, to pick up books.

Like grandparents who mourn wasted time with growing grandchildren, grandchildren can feel bad about missed opportunities with older loved ones.

Ramanth would have liked to spend time with her over the past year learning more about the family’s history. He once met Mohandas K. Gandhi, the late famous leader of India and advocate of non-violence. Attended a tea hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. And she has seen photos of her late husband, a high-ranking officer in the Indian Navy, with the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

“This is a time when I wish I could talk to her more about her life, as she gets older,” says Ramanth, who hopes to have more contact soon now that she is fully vaccinated. “Sometimes it can be a bit sad. You can’t spend that much time with someone, even if they live with you. “

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Dan Sewell, an AP correspondent in Cincinnati, and his wife Vickii have nine grandchildren. Follow him on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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